Tuesday, 25 May 2010


Went to the hip little Scootercaffe again recently, just along Lower Marsh behind Waterloo station. Its such a great cafe with the perfect mix of esoteric interiors, brilliant obscure 80s tracks on the decks, delicious coffee (but alas, no cake), small but perfectly formed outdoor space and of course...le chat blanc.

The actual scooter repair business is now based in Bermondsey but the cafe lives on in all its well-weathered retro glory. 

Monday, 24 May 2010


I'm doing a second guerilla manbagging post because as you all know the manbag never sleeps!!! With such a selection of elegant manbags gracing the shoulders of London gents, well, it really is a crime not to share...

A great looking Far Eastern gentleman temporarily lost in the heart of Mayfair...is it all just a wonderful dream Mr Manbag?

More of a Rough Trade From Suburbia In The Big Smoke To Load Up The Credit Card type of gent, relaxing with a manly snout on the Edgeware Road 

Contravening the strict rules of guerilla manbagging (not strictly 'une manbag' if draped across the shoulder in the classical masculine fashion, as above) but the daring canary-yellow colour warranted this chap's inclusion

And finally, this brilliant double whammy spotted at the Tate Modern No Soul For Sale event last weekend...two exceedingly fashion-forward chaps sporting twin manbags...fierce!


For four years I was lucky enough to live in a large, 'romantically dishevelled' flat in the heart of Kensington. This ramshackle apartment included a pretty little archetypal London rooftop overlooking the dramatic spire of St. Mary Abbott's church. I shared the rooftop space with a mysterious, elusive neighbour I secretly referred to as Crispin - in tribute to Crispin's Food and Wine, the local 24-hour off license famous for the world's highest prices and appalling customer service.

Crispin always dressed like a post-modern Dickensian dandy, his sartorial style often featuring a waistcoat, tails and cravat. He would stalk the Kensington alleyways on his bike, coat tails flapping in the autumn breeze, knee-high pirate boots masterfully powering the pedals. Crispin seemed to epitomise the essence of the contemporary bohemian, proclaiming his profession as a 'neo-classical composer' when he wasn't sampling the delights of the extras catering van on the Harry Potter set. Hailing originally from Mauritius, Crispin had haunted the backstreets of Kensington for over 20 years, his tiny rent-controlled bedsit in an even more hazardous state of disrepair than my own. He would hang his Savile Row shirts out to dry on sunny days on the rooftop and treat me to a glass of wine washed down with endless tales of woe caused by the neighbourhood riffraff. Crispin had also worked a stall at the old bohemian Kensington market on Kensington High Street before its demise in the '90s...and now stalks the Wholefoods bar on Thursday nights, sampling their champagne and prosciutto, sprinkling his eclectic charm about the place.

The thing I like about Crispin is he remains a living relic of a more bohemian era, when Kensington was populated by far more interesting locals than suburban weekend shoppers (now dispersed to the abhorrent Westfield), wealthy arabs and French banking refugees. He resolutely refuses to be bullied out of his little West London bolthole and remains a nuisance to landlords, noisy neighbours and pesky rodents alike. Respect to the Dandy of Kensington.

Friday, 14 May 2010


Ever since I left my childhood home at 17 to make it in The Big Smoke, I've dreamt of returning to a rural idyll. I never truly appreciated how wonderful the region I spent my formative years in (pictured above) actually was until I moved away. Now that I live in one of the most crowded, polluted and expensive cities in the world, the fantasy of a rural escape seems ever more potent.

Of course England - that green and pleasant land - is packed with rural idylls. Beautiful countryside piles owned by the landed gentry surround quaint villages, oozing with intoxicating summertime charm. Luckily for the common volk many of these places are accessible, like Charleston in Sussex - country retreat of artists Vanessa Bell & Duncan Grant and their Bloomsbury Group friends. Apart from the succulent, overflowing gardens (below) and delicious ripe scent of the summertime air, Charleston's exotic between-the-wars interiors reflected the unconventional, bohemian lifestyles of its inhabitants. The estate includes the cosy little Room of One's Own where Vanessa's sister Virginia Woolf would write when visiting from Monk's House - her own impressive Sussex pile. On pilgrimage here, my sister and I did the decent thing and strolled out to the banks of the nearby River Ouse, downing a bottle of wine on the very spot the tortured Miss Woolf filled her pockets with stones and walked to her watery grave.

See more Charleston on the lush Endless Inspiration blog.

One of the most impressive rural idylls I have visited is Great Dixter - family estate of renowned gardener Christopher Lloyd and 'the epitome of English planstmanship'.

The imposing medieval hall dating from the 15th century is one of the largest surviving timber-framed structures in England. This comprises the grand centrepiece of Great Dixter's habitable rooms and maintains a warm, cosy atmosphere in spite of its formidable scale (see below). Furnished with all the creaky antique trappings befitting a grand manor house, the hall eminates centuries of muddy rural history and activity.

Great Dixter's gardens surround the entire house, affording divine views from almost any angle. Featuring explosions of vibrant colour and great masses of overflowing foliage, Christopher Lloyd's work was in the Arts and Crafts horticultural style, emphasising practicality rather than extensive design. Lloyd regularly opened the gardens to the public before his death in 2006 and this exuberant rural idyll is a testament to the man's lifelong green fingered passion and his dedication to nurturing his own living garden.

Image 4 courtesy of Google

Sunday, 9 May 2010


St. Olaf House, just across the road from London Bridge tube station, is a beautifully imposing aesthetic structure - perfectly complementing the city's dense, cloudy skyline. Now part of the London Bridge Hospital, the art deco building was originally designed by S.H. Goodhart-Rendel in 1931 for the Hay's Wharf Company. Named after the Viking chieftain Olaf Haraldsson, who (according to one blog I consulted) attacked London by river in 1009 and tore down London Bridge. Evidently this attack is believed to be the inspiration behind the 'London bridge is falling down' nursery rhyme. A more contemporary inspiration a millenium on might involve a terrorist bombing or maybe political heavyweight John Prescott walking across the bridge chowing down on a Quarterpounder, reminiscing about that infamous left hook. In any case, I digress. St. Olaf's is a beautiful thing. Thank god for belligerent vikings.


Today I did my usual Saturday afternoon gallery shuffle, stumbling down Redchurch St. Shoreditch about 5pm. Across the road I noticed a very hip-looking monochrome shop lit up like a sleazy Amsterdam brothel. The sign above the door advertised MEN complete with an archaic telephone number. From what I could gather, the man in the window looked a bit of all right so I crossed the road with eager anticipation. Only then did I realise MEN was the witty acronym for the Maurice Einhardt Neu gallery and that the wares they in fact sold were art. Prostitution ain't really my bag anyway.

The excitable attendant (lets call him Martin Chuzzlewit) happily interrupted his skyping to give me a brief animated history of the gallery and the fact that it was merely a sideline to the main event behind the mysterious back door - band rehearsal studios. So far, so rock n roll.

Martin also mentioned that he worked in advertising, the current show - the work of an illustration massive called Bare Bones - had been vandalised by the artists in a pissed-up stupor the night before and that the KLF's Jimmy Cauty (or was it Bill Drummond?) owned the gallery across the road. Very, very refreshing to meet a gallerist so passionate about their project and so utterly friendly and unpretentious.

Check out the Bare Bones blog here and go have a chat with Martin Chuzzlewit before hes too cool to make an appearance on a Saturday.

Thursday, 6 May 2010


Sardine & Tobleroni, the stage name for Swiss/Portuguese punk rock painters Jay Rechsteiner and Victa Silveira are my official New Art Crush. Infusing cultish rock n roll imagery with a naive, loose style, their paintings evoke a nostalgic teenage charm - the kind usually reflected on the folders of high school punk rebels across the western world.

The duo categorise their practice as 'Conceptual Art Brut', suggesting a body of work wishing to remain uninstitutionalised. This 'outsider' status is again reflected in Sardine & Tobleroni's refreshingly humble conception at the Hackney Community College, as opposed to say, Goldsmiths or the Royal College of Art. Amongst video pieces and photography, their main wheeze is to each paint one side of a canvas, resulting in schizophrenic portraits revealing Tobleroni's more experimental, abstract tendencies against Sardine's figurative approach. The punk artists have also managed to make Gilbert and George's vile 'In The Piss' palatable by reappropriating the work into a comedic egotistical pastiche of the Self-Referential Old Boys' grotesque brazen nakedness.

Sardine & Tobleroni's first solo show entitled 'We Love 77' featured a scorching collection of 77 bands in 77 paintings ironically not just limited to the seminal Year Of Punk. Straight up unaffected idolatry, or a sophisticated reimagining of decades of pop cultural history? Whatever the case, these works remain a stunning collection of images exuding all the brooding anger of youth and the vigorous passion we invest in our rock n roll heroes.

All images courtesy of Google


There appears to be somewhat of a quilting mania in London right now, with the V&A's imaginatively titled major exhibition Quilts: 1700-2010 running until July - in addition to the London Quilters' Exhibition 2010 currently showing at the Swiss Cottage Library. The V&A had some great historical examples but the Swiss Cottage show embodied a far more down to earth and contemporary take on the craft (see pics below).

Quilts somehow seem to become allegorical symbols for their makers. The traditional quality of the craft reflects centuries of domestic teaching between mothers and daughters, providing a nostalgic vibe into the mix for modern quilt makers, in line with the comeback of all things handmade. For some, quilting seems almost an obsessional practice, incorporating sophisticated designs and even names for each piece they produce. English quilter Hazel Ryder, quoted in a recent Guardian article suggested 'I think I need to make quilts. Quilting to me is like breathing - it is what I do. It is my way of responding to the world'.

British artist Tracey Emin, of course, remains heavily associated with the needleworking genre, customising this feminine form of expression to blistering effect in her 2004 work Hate and Power Can Be a Terrible Thing (above).  Her juxtaposition of stark, angry phrases with the pastel colours and kitsch floral designs of the fabric she employs epitomise to me the enormous gulf between the idealised societal expectations of femininity and the often brutal reality of what it means to be a woman today.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


Royal couturier Sir Hardy Amies' museum and archive recently opened to the public at number 14 Savile Row. Housed within two elegant showrooms above the firm's existing tailoring business, the museum exhibits some fine examples of Amies' glamorous dress and suit designs - primarily in shades of the designer's signature brown hue.

Amies' 1939 'Made In England' lapel seemed ironically non-British in its audacity - and a precursor to the patriotic, iconic English attitude seen today in the work of designers such as ginger-headed loon Vivienne Westwood. Queen Elizabeth's 1955 Royal warrant sealed Amies' reputation internationally although the label's design submissions for Princess Diana's 1981 wedding dress were unsuccessful. Rightly so, as the chic French museum attendant remarked - would you really want your wedding dress designed by your mother-in-law's couturier?

The museum included many of Amies' personal effects and photographs in addition to sketches produced as costume designer for Stanley Kubrick's film 2001 A Space Odyssey. The archive also featured an amazing collection of leather-bound Vogue issues dating back to the '30s, situated in the Hollywood-style rouge velvet padded alcove overlooking the building's grand staircase where clients rested between fittings.

Amies' total aesthetic code extended to wallpaper design, whose bold graphic style apparently (and unfortunately) never made the production line. The Museum provides a nostalgic view into a far more glamorous era upstairs, while the modern men's tailoring concern downstairs continues to keep alive bespoke Savile Row traditions with your basic suit a snip at just £3500. Dandies, you know it makes sense.